See Sense Beam+ Front Light
59g £180 3 Month Test
The See Sense Beam+ Front Light is the biggest of two “connected” lights pumping out a maximum of 1500lumens and four modes as standard. Connected lights (where you can control outputs via a phone app) are becoming more common but lack the functionality, dare I say accuracy of the Beam+. Aside from letting the sensor regulate light intensity, there’s a function detecting movement.
This means it will send an alert to your Android, or IOS device and it can also contact a nominated significant person, should it detect a crash. More significantly, it’s solidly made, extremely reliable and surprisingly user-friendly. For all its many charms (arguably you wouldn’t need one, given the user tuneable technology), I would’ve liked a remote switch thrown in.
Pros: Excellent output, precise & reliable sensor, sensible modes, solid build quality, compact, auto kickdown, user-friendly app.
Cons: Pricey compared with models of similar output but this is offset by other features, 5-hour charge times, although not essential, a remote switch would’ve been nice.
The outer shell is made from Luran (a very rugged thermoplastic) married to a CNC machined, 6061 aluminium alloy with a hardy matt black anodised finish. These are arguably obvious choices- aside from protecting the internals from physical knocks (the latter serves doubles as a heatsink with thermal cut-out, so diodes and switchgear stand the best chance of long and productive lives).
Continuing this theme, we have a Cree LED with others made to See Sense’s specification projected through a Lexan (high quality polycarbonate) lens and a clever sensor up top. This sensor assesses lighting conditions and, if instructed will adjust output to suit. I say, “up top”, but the lens is designed to provide the same coverage, regardless of whether you’re mounting it atop the bards or underneath with. IPX67 isn’t in canal chucking territory but not far off and reassuring if you fancied throwing in some gravel fun.
Some might pull faces, wanting a USB C charge for their money, but the Micro USB does its thing competently and has a precise fit port cover, so I’m not going to get excited. Besides, their ubiquity means you’re not going to be struggling for a charge cable. The rechargeable battery is reckoned good for 500 charge cycles before running times start tapering off to 80% capacity. Potentially a ten-year lifespan, if charging weekly.
Before I go any further, let’s explore the app and its potential. First and foremost, you can run it stock, this app just unlocks a lot of other light and safety related features. As I said earlier, the app is easily downloaded to an Android, or IOS system and I found it very intuitive to setup.
Aside from tuning the output, to suit conditions-increasing output when descending, or through the sticks, dropping down when you cross into built up areas. It also enables you to share data about road conditions, communicates more precise battery life, which is always helpful but should mean outages are a talking point.
Following on from this, a get you home mode means the light will staircase down to give you an hour’s grace, which is very welcome. Then of course, it will tell you if it senses movement, which should alert you to someone trying to steal your bike/accessories. Accidents are something most of us would rather not think about. That said; the ability to appoint someone as a next of kin (and the technology communicate this to them) could literally prove a lifesaver.
See Sense offers an aftermarket dual out-front mount from CNC machined aluminium alloy for £34.99. As stock, it’s a Garmin type resin unt with a choice of straps to suit various bar diameters. I’ve had no issues with 31.8, 26 and narrower accessory mounts. A 3mm Allen key secures everything tightly and is a more reliable setup than more traditional watch strap closure, which can slip gradually over the course of a ride. Our sample had a rogue mount, which meant the light rattled annoyingly but was otherwise secure. See Sense didn’t hesitate to supply me with another. I am pleased to report it works with other brands using the Garmin type pattern, which is great news for porting between bikes.
There are three stock modes, which may leave some of you feeling short changed but there are times when less is genuinely more, and this is one of them. It also does away with the need for a memory mode.
Constant High (1500 lumens), Constant Eco (600lumens) and finally, Reactive Flash, which leaving aside the sensor selecting technology, is probably the default for daylight running and suburban riding-although it will boost power and switch to constant whenever needed. Very reliably, too, I’m pleased to report.
A two second press of the large, rubbery centre mounted switch is needed to power up and subsequent prods change mode. Powering down is simply a matter of depressing the switch for another two seconds. This is longer than some but does mean accidental power ups are highly unlikely. Its easily commanded wearing full finger winter weight gloves with liners (when it’s plunged several degrees below zero).
The battery life indicator will give a visual indicator of charge life using the traffic light system, but the app will give this in finer detail, and you can tell it to “get you home”. Now it would be easy to say this shouldn’t be necessary, but I challenge anyone to say they hadn’t been caught out at least once in their riding career.
At a glance, clear denotes fully charged, green means you’ve at least 60%, pulsing amber denotes between 60 and 20%, red means you’ve less than 20%. At this point, the apps get you home mode is an absolute godsend, although I always recommend keeping batteries charged to around the 70% mark for best service life. When it turns solid red, you know it’s in “Get You Home” mode and you have an hour.
My benchmark for dark lanes is 1300lumens- give or take a 100lumens. In stock mode the full 1500 has more than enough bite for the backroads at 25mph plus. Beam quality is very road centric, rather than a hybrid, which has some definite plusses and minor shortcomings if you’re looking at doing gravel, or more adventurous mixed terrain commutes. No issues with things like canal and towpaths (although in those contexts, I’d be inclined to nudge down to the steady eco mode).
The 1500lumens still packs a lot of useable punch and casts a pure, relatively broad arc of light. One that makes picking out holes, sharps, rogue rabbits and other hazards effortless at safe distances and enthusiastic paces.
Approaching traffic tended to pick me out (denoted by dipped lights) at 150 metres, on a relatively clear night. Peripheral punch is similarly effective, and I’ve felt confident of being spotted at unlit junctions and faster roads.
As the numbers probably imply, it’s also kept pace with my own efforts- I've been descending at 30-35mph and had could pick out potential hazards at around 30 metres, a bit further on clear, starry nights. Yes, and there’s been the odd spirited tango with wild rabbits, thankfully without incident. Off road the beam pattern is good enough for less technical sections but models such as Ravemen PR1200 and as a closer comparator, their LR1600 front light, have an edge in these contexts.
Constant Eco is 600 lumens and in common with competitors is brighter than the numbers might suggest but sensible enough for suburban stretches. While overkill for town, it’s not aggressive.
There’s enough navigational punch for semi-rural contexts, and no hassles with maintaining 20-23mph with ample warning of hedge clippings, holes etc. What really surprised me was how well it performed along unlit B-roads and at around 14-15mph. Hardly warp speed but certainly credible, should you need to conserve power on a longer ride, or if you’ve just been a bit slack where charging’s concerned.
Other traffic seemed to take notice (slowing and/or dipping their lights at 80 metres or so). No issues with being seen. Canal and towpaths are also passable with reasonable confidence, although run “stock” I’ve tended to unleash the full 1500 for anything particularly sheltered (if only for my own sense of security).
Through the suburbs, I could let rip 20-23mph, faster if traffic conditions permitted. Ample notice of glass, holes and signage. Plenty of presence at junctions, roundabouts and though things varied, I appeared to register on driver radars at 50 metres or so.
Arguably, the reactive flash is best for these contexts, since it will regulate its intensity. Sensors have come a long way in terms of their accuracy, and I’ve been captivated by how quickly, yet reliably it reads the environment.
Approaching road signs, it immediately became brighter before slowly tapering down. Whizz through an underpass, it would respond without hesitation, ditto if it registered car, or larger vehicle headlights. This was particularly welcome around town where traffic volumes and competing illuminations can make situations more challenging.
Indeed, I was surprised to discover (through the sticks with it playing backing singer to my dynamos) that it became brighter when it sensed a sudden movement- weaving around an obstacle, or accelerating hard on a climb, for example. Avoiding hazards often coincided with farm vehicles and HGV. The latter proved alert to my presence and crucially at a sensible distance-giving both parties' opportunity to regulate speed and course.
More frenetic around town but the effect was similar and bought me time at nastier roundabouts, dare I say more grace when entering the flow of traffic generally. Back along the deserted backroads and lonely lanes it would regulate output with similar and seemed to alternate between 600 and the full 1500 as conditions fluctuated. Though welcome across the board, this was a serious boon on foggy mornings.
As a daylight running mode, it has less punch than some master-blasters but plenty of presence and I found it effective, even in strong winter sun.
With my dynamos, the flashing seemed to remain at a consistent 600 lumens but would again increase when sensing a road sign, or other forms of lighting.
In any context, I am yet to have anyone say they were dazzled or distracted by it.
I am not intuitively given to surrendering too much control to technology but running the app and letting the light regulate output hasn’t presented any unexpected, or unwelcome surprises. It conserves battery life with similar finesse. Features that lend it particularly well to leaving city limits and letting your hair down for a couple of hours. Other functions- movement alerts were similarly exacting and reliable.
Run/Charge Times 3.75/5
In stock form this has been very faithful to those cited. I’ve had returned the full two hours from the constant high (1500 lumens) 6hrs 54 from the constant eco (7 hours cited) and at least 35 hours from the reactive flash. Using the app and tailoring things I’ve had 2hrs 47 and 40 hours plus before the system informed me it was going into “Get home” mode. Charging is similarly predictable-5hours from the computer USB, 20 minutes or so quicker at the mains.
I’ve exposed ours to freezing conditions, heavy rain, my sustained garden hose torture test and it’s not missed a beat. The thermal cut-out and other features continue the rugged narrative. Not surprising, given the spec but reassuring just the same.
The port cover fits very snugly and despite some formative misgivings the mount components seem sturdy. Being a popular pattern, aftermarket alternatives are plentiful, which also means easy porting between bikes. I used another brand’s mount with Ursula and the OEM on my fixed gear winter/trainer’s bars and no issues whatsoever.
£180 is quite an outlay. There are a few lights offering more firepower and some degree of sensored technology for less. However, there’s also a fair bit of swings and roundabouts here.
At the lower end of this market, Magicshine Ray 2600 Smart Remote Bike Light comes in at £114.
Aside from the retina roasting 2600lumens maximum output, it also employs “ambient” technology, which senses the light and chooses the setting accordingly. I’ve found this surprisingly exact, but transition, say from tunnel or forest trail to road isn’t seamless. Similarly, the higher settings put a dent in the run times, and it occupies more space on the bars.
The remote switch is super convenient and the ability to bolt on a power pack for extended playtimes is similarly welcome. That said, by no means poor, or an afterthought, the sensored technology and battery life indicator are comparatively basic.
Lezyne Mega Drive 1800i Front Light whacks out 1800lumens in the highest settings and has intelligent technology, which allows it to be paired to other lights via blue tooth. Theoretically this means you can switch on/off front and rear lights with one press. The ability to plug in extra power courtesy of their infinite light power pack theoretically doubles run times but also adds £85 to the £160 retail price.
Those wanting to leave asphalt more often, and not overly fussed about sensors might find The Ravemen PR2400 a better fit. It meets IPX8 for weatherproofing and has build quality to match. There’s a mix of flood and spot beams. A wireless remote means you can toggle up/down with ease to suit conditions, there are some decent run times (which you can boost with a power bank) and there’s a very potent 500lumen day flash that sips reserves. You can also charge a phone/similar device. For all its considerable charms, it is heavy, consumes a good chunk of handlebar and costs £200.00.
The See Sense Beam+ is on the face of it, pricey and arguably best suited to road centric commuting and training. Nonetheless, it is a very capable, compact light, well made and with similarly well executed, genuinely useful technology.
Verdict: 4/5 Pricey and road centric but very well engineered with sophisticated, practical and user-friendly technology.
PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 2023